SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Ward joy at new Sunderland deal

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on 10 years ago.

WARD JOY AT CATS DEAL

SUNDERLAND goalkeeper Darren Ward is having the time of his life.

The Wales international has more than 500 career appearances to his name, but none of them has been in the Premiership. And now he hopes to help Sunderland into the big time after signing a new deal until 2009.

Ward, a free transfer capture in the summer, admitted: “This season has been beyond my wildest dreams. If you look back to last summer, when I was released by Norwich and had gone through problems with my back, the way things have around is fantastic.

“When I came here last summer I never accepted that I’d just sit back on the bench and play second fiddle to Ben Alnwick, who was the number one at the time. I was determined to keep the pressure on, and that has paid off.”

Ward signed an initial one-year deal when he arrived at the club just a couple of days before the season began with a 2-1 loss at Coventry.

Alnwick’s reign ended after the Black Cats’ 4-1 loss at Preston in October and he was eventually sold to Spurs in January, with Ward proving an outstanding performer under new boss Roy Keane – making enough appearances to earn an automatic one-year contract extension before Sunderland added another 12 months last week.

The 32-year-old said: “I’m delighted to have a deal until I’m 35 years old. It’s a bit more security for me and my family and I hope I can continue to play a part for the cub as it goes forward.

“I could not have imagined how well this move would work out. I’m delighted to be in the team during an exciting time for the club and I’m back playing international football again.

Ward is now with the Wales squad for their European Championship qualifiers against the Republic of Ireland at Croke Park on Saturday and San Marino in Cardiff a week tomorrow.

His experiences this season are a far cry from the two frustrating years he spent at Norwich as Robert Green’s understudy – a period that saw the Worksop-born stopper start only one game after joining from Nottingham Forest.

He added: “The older you get, the more you enjoy the good times. I had two wasted years at Norwich so having a taste of what’s happening at Sunderland is brilliant.”

WELSH MAKES MOVE TO TORONTO

ANDY WELSH’S Sunderland career is over after the young left-winger agreed terms to join Major League Soccer outfit Toronto FC.

Welsh will now link up with former Black Cats team-mate Carl Robinson, who joined the Canadian side from Norwich City in the January transfer window.

Toronto have recently been accepted into the MLS – the first non-American team to take part. So Welsh could soon be playing against David Beckham, who is joining LA Galaxy.

Welsh was one of the bargain buys brought in by Mick McCarthy in the 2004-05 season who helped the club confirm promotion back to the Premiership.

He cost £15,000 from Stockport County but proved an able deputy for Julio Arca, offering pace and directness.

He made eight appearances that season, scoring two goals and moved up into the Premiership only to quickly lose his confidence and his place in the side.

Nevertheless, he still made 17 appearances in the top flight, either side of a loan spell at Leicester City.

This season he has had another spell on loan as it became clear he had no place in manager Roy Keane’s plans.

Now the 23-year-old is off to the MLS franchise after Sunderland agreed to end his current contract. Welsh is travelling to Toronto to have a medical.

Former Glasgow Rangers striker Mo Johnston, who manages the North American side, said: “It was on and it was off, but Sunderland were great in allowing him to come over. We’re very happy to have him coming to join us.”